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Belton’s storm sirens fail during May 24 tornado warning

By Allen Edmonds

Belton’s outdoor warning system failed during the May 24 tornado warning, though the degree of the failure remains under debate.

Police Chief James Person said on Saturday he believed that 15 of the city’s 17 sirens “performed as designed” during a post-storm test on Saturday

But, he said, sirens at 174th and South Benton and Cambridge and Mullen failed the test.

“They worked during the initial test, but failed to reset. One additional siren showed some AC power issue, but sounded for every test,” he said in an email sent to city officials and The North Cass Herald on Saturday.

But on Friday night, the city’s Facebook page was inundated with citizens from throughout the city that did not hear the sirens.

Others reported hearing sirens, but wondering if they were from a neighboring city such as Grandview or Raymore.

Still others reported that sirens in their area worked as expected.

Person reported hearing the city’s siren in the neighborhood where he lives when the alarm was first sounded.

He said he drove directly to the Emergency Operations Center at 163rd and Mullen Road, Fire Station No. 2, and heard the siren in that vicinity as well.

“I do not know whether all the sirens worked last night, as I did not visit each site during the storm,” Person said.

But, he said, “during the storm, officers also had difficulty hearing the sirens and were also sounding their vehicle sirens. I do know that as is policy, our dispatch center activated the system as soon as the tornado warning was given by the National Weather Service. There was no additional notice. This seemed to pop up. We were monitoring the weather and radar, and there was only rain and lightning showing. I immediately called for the school district to open the shelter at (Belton High School) and called in the BEMA volunteers.”

He said he left for the EOC at 7:50 p.m., and heard sirens in his neighborhood at that time.

He also said the department’s communications commander stepped outside the poice station when the sirens were activated and heard at least four sirens wind up.

“I am thankful there were no injuries reported, and no serious property damage.”

He did express frustration with some of the of the criticism that had been received following the event.

“I assure you, and all our citizens that we care about our community’s safety, and will not conspire, withhold, or fabricate information as some have suggested."

On Tuesday, Blue Valley Public Safety, the Grain Valley firm that sold and installed the sirens several years back, spent the day in Belton making repairs and testing the system.

Person reported to the Belton City Council on Tuesday night that the firm had corrected a number of problems, and by the end of the day, had reported the system in good condition and workable throughout.

He said the decision had also been made to purchase a service contract which will ensure periodic maintenance and battery changes.

Meanwhile, The North Cass Herald has made a public records request for the Blue Valley Public Safety report, as well as siren testing records for all of 2019. The department said it expected to be able to provide the records by Friday.

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